Final Closures:

Fasteners on Antique & Vintage Clothing

One day you discover a sheer white, high–waisted, empire–style dress at an antique show. The dealer has it marked ambiguously as “very old.” You think it has the basic look of the dresses worn early in the 19th century, but when you look more closely, you find its only closure is metal hooks and eyes running all the way down the back. It doesn't date to the Regency era at all; it’s a revival empire dress from the 1890s! How to tell? A dress from the early 1800s wouldn’t have a long line of hooks and eyes running down the back (while this sort of closure was popular in the 1890s). Many people would have been fooled...So what were the typical closures used during the 19th and 20th centuries? Read on!

* 1800—1824: • Bodices are usually closed with tape ties and drawstrings in back • Hooks and eyes are used to close front–closing garments • Removable straight pins are used as fasteners • A fabric tape tying around the waist may be attached to dresses at center back (for tying on a small bustle) • Buttons made of metal rings covered with thread are worn occasionally

* 1825—1835: • Tie closures are rare by c.1830, except around the neckline • Armhole seam may have tape ties (usually three in number) for attaching sleeve puffs to pouf out the top of the sleeve

* 1836—1849: • Hooks with stitched thread “eyes” or bars are the most common closure • Evening dresses may be laced up the back

* 1850—1869: • Hooks and eyes or buttons run down the front of garments and lacing is sometimes shown running down the back of evening dresses

* 1870—1889: • Hooks and eyes or buttons run down the front of day dresses • Closures are often in back for evening dresses • Back lacing is still popular for evening gowns • Tapes sewn to the inside of bodices at the waist and closed by a hook and eye are common * 1890—1899: • Bodices fasten with hooks and eyes up the front, or in front and along the sides • Buttons are frequently used, especially for back closures • Bodices sometimes have linings with separate fastenings • Bodice and skirt usually hook together with large hook and eyes at the waistline

* 1900—1909: • Hooks and eyes are used on most dresses • Snaps are sometimes used to supplement hooks and eyes • Bodices have separate (but attached) linings, which fasten separately up the center front or back

* 1909—1919: • Snaps are used frequently • Hooks and eyes continue to be used

* 1920—1929: • Dresses often slip over the head without fasteners, or with a few hooks and eyes and/or snaps at the side

* 1930—1939: • Dresses usually fasten with snaps and hooks and eyes at the side • Sometimes side–fastening metal zippers are seen c.1939

* 1940—1965: • Hooks and eyes and snaps or metal zippers are used on the side of dresses • c.1949 metal zippers sometimes run straight down the back of dresses

* 1966—1979: • Plastic zippers begin to appear commonly from c.1968




(c) 2000 by Kristina Harris